It is widely spoken that the whole human race, is blessed with variants of languages and cultures. These cultures and traditions are filled with societal practices that are both positive and negative in relation to the welfare of humanity. Over here in Africa, various traditional practices are no longer in tandem with the status quo of what is required in achieving the fundamental human rights of the peoples and in line with the reality of living in this digital age.
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) which is a case of an enduring confusion has always been a silent evil predominant among the Black peoples of the world, though it can be seen in some parts of Asia. The history of FGM is virtually unknown but can be said to have originated from the peoples of North Africa, Egypt to be precise. According to ancient writings, the Egyptians by the custom of their heritage, circumcise every marriageable youth (both male and female) and always at the age of fourteen.
Most communities of Africa, through the bands of their spokespersons, have expended so much energy in the defense of this age-long practice and in the same vein, have attached so much religious and traditional beliefs to these acts, which are almost unreasonable because there is no proven health or psychological benefits with respect to the practice. Common unfounded reasons for FGM cited by various societies are social acceptance, preservation of virginity, hygiene, religious beliefs, marriage acceptability and mockingly, enhancement of male sexual pleasures. It is imperative to note that, despite the severe consequences associated with FEMALE CUTTING, women have always been at the forefront of defending and organizing all types of FGM.
Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting and female circumcision, is the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. The practice is found in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and within communities from countries in which FGM is common. UNICEF estimated in 2016 that 200 million women living today in 30 countries have undergone the procedures of FGM (Wikipedia). Typically this practice is carried out by a traditional circumciser using a blade. FGM is conducted from days after birth to puberty and beyond. In most countries where FGM is prevalent and for which national figures are available, most girls are cut before the age of five. Shockingly, a particular blade can be used on about thirty (30) young girls, thereby exposing them to severe health challenges which will lead them, in many cases, into a troubled adulthood.
Furthermore, FGM is broadly explained in its various forms which are TYPE I, II, III, IV. TYPE I involves the partial or complete cutting of the clitoris as well as the prepuce. TYPE II (excision) is the complete or partial removal of the inner labia, with or without removal of the clitoral glands and outer labia. TYPE III is the “sewn closed” category and it is also the removal of the external genitalia and fusion of the wound. The inner and/or outer labia are cut away, with or without removal of the
clitoral glands. This very version of the female cutting practice can also be referred to as infibulations. Infibulations has been regarded as one of the most gruesome acts of FGM, because of the closure of the vagina with a little opening left for the passage of urine and menstrual flow.
Hanny Lightfoot-Klein interviewed hundreds of women and men in Sudan in the 1980s about sexual intercourse with Type III: The penetration of the bride’s infibulations takes anywhere from 3 or 4 days to several months. Some men are unable to penetrate their wives at all (in my study over 15%), and the task is often accomplished by a midwife under conditions of great secrecy, since this reflects negatively on the man’s potency. Some who are unable to penetrate their wives manage to get them pregnant in spite of the infibulations and the woman’s vaginal passage is then cut open to allow birth to take place.
Those men who manage to penetrate their wives do so often, or perhaps always, with the help of the “little knife”. This creates a tear which they gradually rip more and more until the opening is sufficient to admit the penis (Wikipedia). Ladies who have experienced this procedure are meant to re-undergo the process of vaginal opening when married and the worst of it all is that these ladies are re-infibulated to restore the miniature opening after childbirth. Re-infibulations can involve cutting the vagina again to restore the pinhole size of the first infibulations. This might be performed before marriage, and after childbirth, divorce and widowhood.
In addition, TYPE IV involves all other harmful procedures to the female genitals for non-medical reasons. It encompasses pricking, piercing, incising, scraping, cauterization and labia stretching. There is a belief in Uganda that girls who fail to indulge in labia stretching are most likely to have difficulties during child bearing and borrowing a leaf from a Greek physician, Galen…he says “when the clitoris sticks out to a great extent in their young women, Egyptians consider it appropriate to cut it out”.
The consequences and complications of FGM are always far-reaching and have short-term and long-term health implications. These complications are as follows: swelling, excessive bleeding and pains, urine retention, obstructions caused by resultant scars and keloids, transmissions of Hepatitis and HIV viruses. Most women, who have passed through these procedures experience loads of complications and challenges during pregnancy and childbirth. There are also psychological effects and sexual dysfunctions associated with the aftermath of the various forms of FGM. Those who have stood against this practice have been threatened with social exclusion and UNICEF calls the practice of FGM a “self-enforcing social convention”. Some of these families, who are opponents of this quagmire, are forced into succumbing to the generalized concept of the practice to avoid their daughters being socially excluded.
Notwithstanding the fact that most societies have connected some religious beliefs to the practice of FGM, in 2007, according to a report from the Al-Azhar Supreme Council of Islamic Research stationed at Cairo, this prestigious Islamic institution ruled that FGM had “no basis in core Islamic law”. Even in the Bible, there is no mention of Female Genital Mutilation, whether explicitly or implicitly, but Christian communities in various parts of Africa continue to indulge in these acts. In the Jewish religion, circumcision of males is non-negotiable but the practices of FGM are outlawed.
Ultimately, it has been established by the advancements in medical science researches, that there are no known scientific benefits associated with FGM. In the same vein, we are obliged by conscience and natural law, to encourage the ongoing sensitization of our local communities by health workers and human rights groups and other activists in the fight against FGM. Secondly, all forms of violence against women and children must be vehemently repelled and unrepentant proponents of these acts, be rightfully punished by the law.
The governments of various sovereign nations where there is high prevalence of FGM should make and enforce health laws that are in line with international standards and best practices, with these laws properly enshrined in the constitution of the land. Professional health workers who are involved in these inhumane practices shall then be made to face the hammer of the law. For the sake of posterity, the peoples of this present age must continue to obliterate ancient traditional practices that amount to gross infringement on the fundamental human rights of any member of their society. Children (of both sexes) must not be socially abused in any ramification.
Let’s end this meaningless practice. Female genital mutilation is never a pre-requisite for any woman to achieve a healthy and fulfilled lifestyle!
Uzoukwu Chinemerem Christian
(2020) Admin Critical Thinkers Forum
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